I was born and raised in a small village surrounded by forest in West Africa. At the village, we all knew one another, and we treated people as one family. We usually go to our neighbors’ house to wait for them to go to school together. After school, we go to the stream to get fresh water for our village homes. At school, we ate lunch together as a big group. Even though we had no electricity at the village, our parents and grandparents came together to find a way for us to become happy. My name is Vida and I am from Ghana. This was my life until I was 13-years-old where I was forced to marry a man in his fifties.
One of the reasons why I thrived through these hardships was the willingness to survive. Here is my story:
Growing up as a child, life was never easy for me. I never knew that it was important to sleep for 8 hours until I started high school in Chicago. I had my son when I was only fifteen years old. I tried to commit suicide over this, but something always stopped me … it was my Son. I looked at him and I felt guilty about my thoughts. My life was hell not because I didn’t have access to electricity, not because I was going to school under trees, but because of the people I lived with. Imagine a pregnant 15-years-old teenager who worked all day; both house chores and farm work. I traveled by foot over 10 miles in the bushes back and forth every day and was carrying heavy food on my head. Even in the rain.
I was never happy in my life until I moved to the United States in 2016. I had to travel about four months from Ecuador to the United States and met different people. People that I called family. People who showed me the right way to go. People who see things in me even in my worst moments. Sometimes you can’t depend on family members or those that you call childhood friends. Those people might disappoint you. The people I called friends, and family today, are the ones who pushed me to overcome my fear. Sometimes the best way to overcome your fears is to be persistent, and super ambitious. Developing such an attitude will let you stay focused. Like Jajah will always say to me, “you got this.” Surrounding myself with people like her always boosts my energy. To this day I credit those who gave me courage to leave and fight for my life and the life I am creating.
I try so hard not to be alone where I think about my past, the anxieties, things that I cannot control. I rather do things to boost my energy, benefit me and my friends. I like doing exercise, listening to motivational podcasts, talking to friends and watching funny videos on YouTube. To have the desire to do something you love is all you need to thrive. I remember I had to join the women’s soccer team my first year of community college to be able to pay my tuition. Just imagine, I was homeless sleeping in a shelter, undocumented with just my work authorization in Chicago. I had to go to training every day, attend class, games and still must go to work in order to go keep me from getting fired. This was my life from 2018- 2019, but today, I am an undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago majoring in Forensic Science.
The one consistent for me is having a mentor in my life. I was fortunate to have one right when I started school in Chicago. There is a saying, you are what you eat and who you listen to. My first mentor was my high-school principal, Mrs. Yoo. She is smart, diligent, intelligent, courageous, and disciplined. I always look up to her because she always inspires me and tells me I can become anything I want to be if I set my mind to it. In addition, she was very kind and supportive. I strongly believe there are a lot of people like Mrs. Yoo, Jajah, Magie, or Becky out there who would love to support others in their various situations. I also believe that having a Mentor is very important because you will always have the enthusiasm to pursue your goals. So my advice during tough times is surround yourself with the right people and help make your life easier and better.
MENTEE is a virtual and global mentoring network for marginalized and oppressed groups from around the world. The amount of time you give and when is up to you! Find out more about our mission and how to get involved at www.menteeglobal.org!